The heart of Christmas

During the Christmas season I make a point of rereading the little book What Christmas Means to Me—a compilation of several of Mary Baker Eddy’s messages on the true significance of Christmas. Even if you’re determined not to get caught up in the busyness and the commercialism that often characterize the season, you soon realize that mere human effort, without a heartfelt appreciation and reminder of the spiritual significance of Christmas, can be frustratingly ineffective. As I’ve quietly considered the deep spiritual import of this little book, my thought has always been lifted to a stronger understanding of what we might call the heart of Christmas. 

Many years ago, after much mental wrestling in my personal life, my study of Christian Science led me to glimpse this true spirit of Christmas, and what it means to be less wrapped up in the human self. After a divorce, I had agreed that our two young children should spend the Christmas holidays with their father. Sad to say, although I was sure the children would enjoy it—and their well-being was never a concern—I was plunged into a pit of despair and self-pity. The proverbial last straw came when I was asked by my branch church to substitute at the Reading Room on Christmas Day. I’m sorry to admit my first thought was: “Fine thing! Everyone else has family, friends, or plans. The only reason they asked me is that I’m the only one in the whole church who will be alone on that day!“ I now wince whenever I recall that reaction, but, of course, deep down I knew this was hardly a constructive or loving way of approaching the situation. Yet I was unable to summon up the spiritual discipline to refute this suggestion.

Eventually, a few days before Christmas, while rereading What Christmas Means to Me, and specifically “A Christmas Sermon” (see Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 161), I realized I had a choice: I could continue down the dead-end road of self-involvement, or I could get hold of myself and willingly and happily go to the Reading Room with a heart full of gratitude for Mrs. Eddy’s provision for this gift to the community. I knew that Reading Rooms offer a quiet refuge and spiritual comfort for anyone struggling with discouraging thoughts—like me! Although some of this reasoning was still more in the head than in the heart, the angel messages persisted. My feelings of depression and self-pity were slowly edged out by the realization that this would be an opportunity to forget myself and reach out to other people with the impersonal love of the Christ.

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Christmas star
December 19, 2011

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